Bible Readers Prefer Word-for-Word Translations, Study Shows

A new LifeWay Research study shows that most Bible readers prefer word-for-word translations of the original texts rather than translations interpreting the intent or thought behind the texts. Sixty-one percent of Bible readers asked said they prefer to read Scripture “where the original words are translated as exactly as possible,” including 33 percent who said they strongly prefer it. Twenty percent preferred “thought-for-thought” translations, including 6 percent with a strong preference for them. Fourteen percent of those asked had no preference.

In addition, 75 percent preferred “total accuracy” over “easy readability” of the Bible; 43 percent strongly agreed. Only 14 percent said easy readability is more important that toal accuracy. 68 percent would like the Bible’s language to be simpler, and 63 percent feel it should be simple enough for anyone to understand, even while 46 percent prefer traditional language over contemporary and 40 percent prefer more formal language.

“In the same way drivers want big, powerful, fuel-efficient vehicles, Bible readers want word-for-word translations that are easy to understand,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “As translators try to cross the globe and two millennia, fully accomplishing both is not always possible.”

The survey also showed that nearly 80 percent of Bible readers prefer God’s name to be translated “the LORD” rather than “Yahweh.” Even more (82 percent) prefer a literal translation of masculine words describing people in general rather than a more gender-inclusive translation style, and 89 percent want a literal translation of gender-specific references to God.

“The places in the Bible in which the inspired writers used masculine words for God, a large majority of Bible readers want translators to use masculine words as well,” noted McConnell. “This is true regardless of whether the reader describes their own spiritual beliefs as liberal or conservative.”

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